In 2003 the Kansas City Chiefs were easily the most dominant team in football. Heading into their Week 11 matchup in Cincinnati they were 9-0 and facing a Bengals team holding a 4-5 record. It didn't take an expert to predict the outcome of this game. No one really gave the Bengals a chance. No one except for Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.
Leave it to the most outspoken member of the organization to make everyone associated with the Bengals cringe as he declared to the media that the Bengals win over the visiting Chiefs was guaranteed. In what has become one of the defining moments in his career, Johnson followed in the footsteps of other greats like Muhammed Ali and Babe Ruth by calling his shot. (Ok, so not so legendary, but at the time for a Bengals fanbase struggling for tiny morsels, it was epic).
What a storm this created. Every media outlet ran with the story as it was going to go well for them either way. Imagine the Bengals did win, then they could dig up references to Ali, Namath and Ruth. Or if the Bengals lost, they could reference the silly Bengals and the mouth of the flamboyant receiver.
Well, it was meant to be. The Bengals not only stood strong to their word, but they delivered in glorious fashion. The first half had the two teams enter the locker room tied at 3-3. The fourth quarter is where the Bengals' Peter Warrick shined. After telling wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh he was going to seal the game with a kiss, he returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown. Later he added a 77 yard touchdown catch for good measure. Warrick outshined electric return man, Dante Hall, in the game.
The Bengals did more than beat an undefeated team that day. They created a blue print for the rest of the league to beat the once unbeatable Chiefs. Kansas City had done well to disguise their weaknesses. They had a suspect defense and a sub-par passing game. They relied on stopping the run and running the ball with an outstanding rushing attack. The Bengals attacked fearlessly on offense and forced Chiefs QB, Trent Green to beat them.
Bengals running back Rudi Johnson delivered with 165 yards on the ground. This dwarfed the output of outstanding running back Priest Holmes of the Chiefs. The victory was sealed and Marvin Lewis held back tears as he presented the game ball to owner Mike Brown.
After the game, Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield said: "The worst thing is to have a guy come out and shoot his mouth making a statement, and they stood up to it this is a good team, but we feel like we shouldn't have lost."
Beyond the guarantee and the headlines around that part of the game, a new theme emerged. Marvin Lewis was taking the Bengals from a doormat to a respectable team. Set aside this particular upset and the media was seeing a coach who had the lowly Bengals acting competitive in every game. The squad believed in itself and in Week 11 was tied for first place in the division.